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Episode 11 "Fresh Meat" is out. It was fun while it lasted, but that will be the last tale from The Fringe. I have an idea for my next project, a novel set in the late 21st century. Thank you guys and gals for all of your support over the last year and some change. So long and thanks for all the fish.

-Sincerely, Wash
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Episode 11
Fresh Meat

Cara’kas Space Station, Delta Komari System
As the young man stepped off the shuttle he looked around. He was clearly out of place; his clothes were too clean, his duffles too new and his eyes were too bright. He was from the inner colonies; the most densely populated sectors of space, the most governed sectors. The young man was far from the sprawling city worlds and comforts of civilization; he was on the frontier, the Fringe. This young man was named James McCormick and his life would soon change drastically. He began to walk through the station, towards a terminal that would take him to his final stop along the Fringe. A brawny man with large menacing muscles stepped out from the crown in front of James.

“First time out on da Fringe? You gonna need showance, inndu’oh. Insurance, inner,” the man said. To James the Fringer’s dialect was strange, but here it was pretty common. People on the Fringe speak both Galactic Standard and a combination of other languages.

“What do you mean? You seem more like the crewman of a freighter than a salesman. Oh, you’re extorting me. This is so exciting!”

“Credichippa, inndu’oh! Now tu gren merde,” the man shouted. Extortion is commonplace on the Fringe. New people from the inner colonies can be quite naive and ignorant. James had his wits about him though. The inner colonies aren't nearly as glamorous as the holo-vids make it seem and James knew that for a fact. The man reached out with one meaty hand and James ducked out of the way.

James knew what the man's next move would be. The muscle bound extortionist tried to step forward and grab James’ neck with both hands. James dropped his duffle bags and rolled to his right. With his left hand he reached into his boot and pulled a telescopic stun baton. With one swift motion he extended the baton and struck the man behind the left knee. The man dropped and James pulled a handgun from his right boot. He could easily take out the man without the gun, but James had a schedule to maintain. He pressed the gun to the man's head, the cold steel barrel was like an ominous icy ring.

“Check mate. Now, I'll be taking your credits. Come on, let's have them. I have places to be and if we don't do this now I'll be late,” the man handed his over his credit chip. James smirked as his chip made a satisfying ring, ensuring the money was now his. He tossed the drained chip back to the man and walked towards the next terminal.

Two Weeks Later
Dead Man's Run
The ship quaked, it's engines fought to move against the magnetic grapples. The pilot shut down the engines. He was exactly where he wanted to be. His ship was pulled into the pirate vessel’s fighter bay. As it settles down on the deck the cockpit opened. James dropped from the cockpit and set his baton and pistol on the deck. The greeting party was confused as to how cooperative James was. A man in large, dark armor stepped forward.

“I'm Captain Saigus Reide. It seems that I'll be taking all of your possessions and drifting you now. Thank you for your fighter,” Reide stated bluntly. When James spoke it almost shocked Reide.

“Really Saigus are you really going to drift the kid you looked after all those years ago? I'm actually right where I want to be.”

“I don't know who you're talking about.”

“Come on Reide. Have you forgotten that you're an Inner? Have you really forgotten that kid James McCormick that you used to mug those rich bastards with?”

“James? My god kid you've grown! How the hell did you find me,” Reide chuckled. It had been ages since the two of them ran the streets of their sprawling home world's cities.

“Well, believe it or not, your former employers want you dead. I was contracted for that. They even gave me a boat, but there's more honor amongst thieves,” Reide’s face drained of all color. For the first time since he started pirating, Reide was speechless.

“You … you're … uh,” Reide stammered. He tilted his head in confusion.

“I'm supposed to be here to kill you Saigus, but I'm actually here to join your crew. The tracker on my ship is disabled. The tracker in my neck is in a dumpster on Cara’kas Station. Do you really think I would betray you without second thought,” James asked.

Before Reide could respond klaxons blared throughout the Rogue’s Dissent. James rolled his eyes and and closed the visor of his flight helmet. He started heading back to his fighter, gathering his pistol and baton on the way there. “Looks like TAC followed me. I'm gonna get in my John boat and cover the ass-end of this bucket while you scramble your fighters and prep the defenses. Let's go Saigus! The law caught up to us, time to fight!”

James climbed into the small fighter and shut the canopy. As he lifted off the deck and shot out from the hangar, Reide shook his head and began to act. He keyed the communications unit on his helmet and barked orders over the ship’s PA system. “All hands to battlestations! I want all fighters in the black, our guest will be helping us and will be marked with a friendly eye-ef-ef tag,” he shouted as he jogged to the lift. When Reide arrived at the bridge, he could see numerous TS rifts opening in a few hundred kilometers away.

“Prepare the main cannons, shields to the bow and primary thrusters, prep Man O’ War pods and Sawfish turrets. Button up all portholes and lower blast plates. I want us sealed in.”

James lazily flew beside the Rogue’s Dissent. Rear guard wasn't something he was accustomed to but was a necessary role. His fighter wasn't up to snuff with the Company's main fighter line. Regardless of its limitations, James was an excellent pilot and could make any bird dance with the best. His fingertips waltzed over the weapons controls and back onto the flight controls. His feet pressed against pedals alternately causing the tail of his fighter to sway light that of a fish.

Two fighters approached at attack velocity. James watched as their shots flared his forward shields. One … two … three James counted. As he hit three, James’ hand pulled back on the throttle and his other left on the joystick. Then he pulled back and right on the joystick before pushing the throttle forward. Without error his fighter stopped, rolled left, rotated 180° on its z-axis and corrected its x-axial rotation and fired its main thrusters. James’ index finger slid up the joystick and pulled the trigger. The fighter shuddered as the upgraded cannons ripped into the hostile vessels.

The Archurian fighters’ shields flashed bright blue as James’ fire weakened them. Suddenly the ships erupted into flames that just as swiftly extinguished. James repeated his prior maneuver and returned to his guard position. His HUD lit up as fifty hostile fighters came within sensor range. The “dumb” AI that ran his ship’s subsystems suddenly began to speak. “Sensor link to Hellcat Class Destroyer ‘Rogue’s Dissent’ established. HUD update initialized. Incoming communication, establishing encrypted channel,” the AI stated.

“James, I’m glad you're on my side. You always were the better pilot. I've given your ship access to our sensors and comm channels. Welcome to Rogue’s Battalion.”

“Thank you Reide. About the new HUD, why all the crimson? Don't get me wrong the overlay looks great but the crimson just ain't my style,” James replied.

James didn't have time for an answer though. A Night Cat Stealth ship appeared on his sensors. The sleek black ship was only noticeable by the void in the stars that it created. The Night Cat had followed him since Cara’kas Station and found that this would be a perfect location to ambush the Rogue’s Dissent. Its wing of fighters flew in a hemisphere formation of sorts. The only issue with this is it's easy to hit. The Rogue’s Dissent adjusted her aim and fired the main cannon. Twelve ships disintegrated on impact with ten metric tons of ferric tungsten. From James’ seat it was like watching a group of bugs splatter against the windshield of a hoverbike.

James activated the afterburner on his engines. His ship accelerated forward as James controlled his breathing. Even in the weightlessness of space G forces are still dangerous. Alarms trilled in James’ earpiece as the Night Cat opened fire on the Rogue’s sortie. He deactivated the afterburner and rolled defensively. Shots from the Night Cat missed him by just a mere hundred meters. A bead of sweat rolled down the side of his face. Too close McCormick, he thought to himself. Three bombers fell in behind the young pilot and the wing leader opened a communication channel to James.

“Sir, we need an escort to clear the way. I have to get these ion charges to that Night Cat to shut down her shields and give the Rogue a shot.”

“Understood. Just follow me and don't break formation,” James replied. His finger flicked a switch on the joystick. His reticle changed as it accommodated the tracking software for his missiles. Suddenly warnings flashed on his HUD. Ships exiting transitional-space just on the other side of the Rogue’s Dissent. A broadcast came over the whole battle group, it was the Night Cat’s captain and Reide.

“You may destroy me, but more will come! We will reclaim that vessel! We will end your little raiding party! Just you see,” the enraged captain exclaimed.

“The devil whispered to the warrior ‘You cannot withstand the storm.’ The warrior replied ‘I am the storm.’ Listen here captain, for as long as I am out here, my group shall expand. Meet Rogue’s Battalion, over three hundred interceptors spread out across ten vessels and counting. Now if you don't mind we'll be leaving now,” Saigus replied. James watched as one hundred metric tons moving at supersonic speeds destroyed the opposing vessel in blinding flash. Nothing but dust and metal fragments were left of it. Awe inspiring and fearful all at once. His life had changed. James was now part of a pirate crew. He would become known as both a fearsome fighter pilot and second in command to one of the most ruthless pirate captains along the Fringe. Rogue’s Battalion was home now.
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I'm sorry to say that after I finish Episode 11 I will not be writing anymore stories for The Fringe. It's been fun to create the universe, but trying to have a series of stories that is loosely connected is quite difficult and surprisingly restrictive as the slightest inconsistencies could contradict lore that I have already established. The Fringe has allowed me to develop and improve my writing style. I'd like to thank all of you who followed and read the stories, and I will leave the collection open for people to read through again.

Thank you for all the support.
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Episode 10
The Constant

The Event
Carimbus Tactical Defense Systems Beta Paxilon Station
High Orbit Over Beta Paxilon IV

Alarms rang throughout the station. Energy readings were off the charts, something was happening and no one had the slightest hint as to what it could be. Soldiers armed themselves, researchers scrambled over displays as data scrawled across the holographic projections and engineers readied themselves to repair whatever damage the station might experience. The main observation deck was packed with researchers. Suddenly the alarms fell silent, the station’s AI prepared the faraday shielding. A disk of blue light appeared in the emptiness just 70km from the station. Just as quickly as the light appeared, it was gone, swallowed by a pitch black sphere which gave way to open space.

The station’s AI began to speak, “Electro-magnetic interference dispersed, faraday shield dropping in three … two … one. Faraday shields shut down. Interesting, sensors are picking up a small object just a few kilometers from the origin of the event. Sending drones to retrieve. Spectral analysis matches previous artifacts found in ruins.” His avatar stood in the center of the deck. the projectors simulated air resistance as he walked and his lab coat swayed near his shins with each step.

“Thank you Carlisle. I want reports in three hours people. I need to know what kinds of radiation were emitted by the event, the magnitude of each and what circumstances could generate such magnitudes. This should be easy for you,” Stated the station’s Head of Research, Dr. Allan Von Graft. He quickly left the observation deck and headed for a conference room.

Von Graft’s voice almost echoed in the empty room as he reported to the company. The Research Council was shocked to hear that something so significant happened in such an unimportant system. In fact there were several motions to have funding for the station withdrawn and assets moved elsewhere in the past. Now the station held value to the company. An unprecedented event had occurred and the Research Council was abuzz. Within an hour the Research Council, Chiefs of Combat and Station Supervision had agreed that bolstering their defences was imperative. A strike group was deployed and expected to arrive at the station within just a few hours.

One Hour Thirty Minutes Post Event
Carimbus Tactical Defense Systems Beta Paxilon Station
High Orbit Over Beta Paxilon IV

Von Graft methodically changed from his standard attire into a Hazardous Materials Suit. Carimbus Tactical Defense Systems mandated that all research staff handling unidentified objects were to wear an HMS outfitted with armor plating to prevent accidental injury. The armor was light and as unobstructive as possible, which allowed for a surprising range of motion. As the last few plates were secured to his armor, Von Graft sighed. He wasn’t entirely sure if anyone should be near the object. He stepped into the clean room airlock and cycled it, a fog of disinfectant chemicals surrounded him and then was purged from the chamber. The clean room door opened and he stepped through.

The object was metallic in both appearance and texture. Its blue-gray surface glimmered in the bright lighting of the room. It was shaped much like an egg with small dimples around the upper half. The lower half was engraved with strange glyphs that could be spotted on ruins across known space. Holographic projections showed that the object was approximately half a meter tall and one third of a meter in diameter at its widest.

Von Graft gently prodded the object with his index finger. It rocked slightly and then stabilized itself. He examined the dimples on the object. He tapped a prompt in a hologram and began to speak. “The object is obviously of alien origin. Dating on the metal is confusing, alluding to it being created mere months ago. Glyphs on the lower half match it to those we’ve previously recorded. The dimples on it seem to be a concave metallic glass. Wait, this is a symbol we’ve never seen before in the alien iconography. It appears to be a human hand.”

Von Graft placed his hand on the glyph. The object suddenly began to heat up, not even Von Graft’s HMS could insulate his hand from the searing heat. As he drew his hand back the dimples began to glow. The power in the clean room was suddenly cut and a hologram was projected into the air around him. Glyphs surrounding one planet resolved into the planet’s present name, Beta Centauri Prime. Along with the name was a year, 297,045 BCE. A line then shot through the galaxy projected before the awestruck scientist. It stopped at a planet and named it, first in glyphs then in Galactic Common, Beta Paxilon IV 5309 CE. The hologram vanished and audio played, a strange alien tongue throaty in nature, for approximately three minutes. The object then replayed the audio, this time it was translated to Galactic Common. The cadence was off enough to make one’s skin crawl. The message said this, “We send this message to the distant future hoping that the seeds we have planted across this galaxy will have grown. In our final days we regret what we have done … the wars we have fought and the lives we have destroyed. We hope that our creations will spread to the stars and that our final acts will not be in vain. Whatever the year this message arrives in, we pray that the galaxy is better off than we left it.”

One Hour Thirty Minutes Post Event
TAC Carrier Royal Flush
Edge of the Beta Paxilon System

It just so happened that an Archurian assault group was patrolling near the Beta Paxilon System at the time that the small metallic object had suddenly materialized in front of the research station. It was also quite coincidental that the sensors sent out by the aforementioned assault group reported strange energy signals before being completely obliterated by the massive amounts of energy given off by the object. Shortly after they were destroyed the Captain of the Royal Flush gave the command to investigate the Beta Paxilon System.

Captain Anthony Albright stood before the viewscreen of the Royal Flush, a cigar gyrated at the corner of his mouth as he chewed the head of it. The jump through transitional-space took longer than he had wanted. Albright now hoped that his assault group could still gather solid information on the event that had occurred. As Beta Paxilon IV came into view Albright’s jaw dropped and his cigar hit the deck. Sensors had failed to pick up a CDTS Orbital station before they were obliterated. The Captain was not too dumbstruck to give orders though.

“All battleships stand on combat alert. Enemy forces undetermined. Prepare fighters to scramble. Prepare to divert power to shields and guns while maintaining orbital speed with the station. All crewmen to battlestations.”

Carimbus Tactical Defense Systems Beta Paxilon Station
As the assault group closed in on the station, the object finished its message and power returned to the clean room. Carlisle suddenly piped up over the communications system. “Doctor Von Graft, I have urgent news. An Archurian Assault Group has entered the system and is quickly closing on the station. I fear that we may not be able to conclude our research. You must come to the Observation Deck. Soldiers are preparing for possible boarding parties.”

“Thank you for your concern Carlisle, I will be there shortly. I think I have all we need. Put all of the station’s important files on a data chip we’ll need them,” Von Graft stated, his voice filled with uncertainty. He loaded the object into a sterile form-fitting case and exited the clean room. He removed the data chip from his HMS helmet and placed it in a reinforced case on the suit, Von Graft had a feeling that he would need the suit and its armor in the coming moments. As he entered the lift to the Observation Deck Carlisle chimed in again.

“Sir, they’ve closed the distance and are maintaining speed with the station.The flag ship, a carrier by the name of Royal Flush is attempting to hail us. I will stall them while you arrive but I need you up here as soon as possible. I’ll provide extra power to the lift’s mag-lev system.”

TAC Royal Flush
Captain Albright was growing impatient with the AI that continued to pester him with the detailed story of the Beta Paxilon Station’s construction and scientific contributions to modern society. Suddenly a man in armor entered the screen. Albright’s interest was peaked by the man.

“You there in the armor, you must be the man in charge of this station. Tell me of the massive energy readings we intercepted from this system. You must be testing some sort of nuclear weapon, that case in your hand is awfully conspicuous,” Albright questioned. The man on screen shifted and removed his helmet to reveal a middle-aged man.

“I am Doctor Allan Von Graft, Head of Research aboard this station, and this is Carlisle, our Research Class Artificial Intelligence. I can assure you that we are working on no such weapon. It seems as though the aliens who once inhabited our galaxy sent a message to us from the past. It appears that they managed to create a working system of launching objects faster than the constant speed of light. They developed time travelling delivery systems! I have the message with me. However you will not be taking it. We found it and we will share it with the galaxy.”

“You will give it to me or I will blast you and your station out of orbit! You seem to forget that I’m the one with battleships and cannons. You have nothing but scientific equipment and a glorified research computer,” Albright exclaimed. This excursion took him outside of his area of operations and put him hours off schedule. There would be a mountain of paperwork and Albright would rather have something valuable to show for it. The view screen suddenly snapped to the scene outside. The scientist had simply hung up on him.

Two Hours Post Event
High Orbit Over Beta Paxilon IV

Three hundred kilometers away from the Beta Paxilon Station a rift opened in space. Its edge shone a bright blue which faded to pitch black in the center. A ship emerged from the rift, its gray surface seemed almost too smooth to be of human origin. Suddenly twelve more rifts opened, each one hosting a smooth grey ship with vibrant blue and green detailing. With incredible speed the ships moved to support the station. The propulsion nacelles retracted toward the bodies of the ships as they accelerated to their destination. Within minutes they were a mere fifty kilometers from the Archurian vessels.

The Archurian assault group reacted as best as they could, half of their vessels swung around to face the new threat from the Carimbus strike group. Their main guns, colossal Magnetic Accelerator Cannons, began to charge their coils. The Carimbus ships returned the favor by firing their point defense lasers, severing the power conduits which powered the MACs. Explosions rocked several decks along each Archurian ship. Atmosphere vented sending jets of flame into space. Amongst the chaos a dropship slipped from the Carimbus flagship to dock with the orbital station.

Von Graft ran for the nearest airlock. In his right hand was the case containing the object, in his left was Carlisle’s intelligence core. The hardened case on his armor contained two data chips now, one holding footage of the objects awakening and another containing the station’s logs from the previous two months. He punched his override code into the airlock controls. It cycled and he stepped into the chamber. Artificial gravity didn’t exist in the airlocks and Von Graft wasn’t prepared when his foot bounced off the cylindrical wall of the chamber. He oriented himself so that he would be standing on the door that opened into the station. When the dropship docked with the airlock Von Graft prepared to leap upwards into it. The bulkhead opened and Von Graft pushed off, sailing into the ship and spinning to plant his feet on the passenger bay ceiling. With another push he was in a jumpseat and strapping in for the ride. The bulkhead closed and the ship left the station as quickly as it could.

The combat outside the dropship was incredible. Ships sailed over each other with less than five hundred meters between them, the helmsmen were either the best in their class or the most foolish men alive. Fighter craft bolted through the vacuum chasing their counterparts while evading anti-aircraft fire from the battleships around them. Globules of molten hull and carcasses of small craft littered the void. An escort of Harpies joined the dropship and guided it back to their flagship. In a last-ditch-effort the Archurian vessels targeted the orbital station and opened fire. A hellstorm of missiles and high velocity rounds ripped the station apart. Jets of flame shot into space as power conduits ignited the air that vented from the station.

The Archurian vessels initiated a jump into transitional-space. Their hulls battered and guns crippled the only remaining option was to flee. Captain Albright hung his head low as the Royal Flush entered transitional-space. Not only had he failed to secure the intel he desired but his foolish orders nearly cost him his assault group. Command would surely rip him apart before demoting him.

Undisclosed Carimbus Research and Development Facility

//User: Von Graft, Allan
//Research Report
I am still unsure as to how the object accessed our records and self translated. We cannot understand how the Centauris could have predicted human feature would have looked like, leaving the handprint glyph a mystery. The R&D team is attempting to pull the object apart to get at the translator system. My hand is healing from second degree burns inflicted by the object. Video from my helmet camera is still under analysis. All we know is that it shouldn’t be possible to break the speed of the constant.

-Dr. Allan Von Graft
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Episode 9

Delta Somari II
The shuttle shook violently as it hit turbulence. Reide wanted to see what kind of metals he could get on this planet. While it wasn't necessarily how pirates made their living, mining anything valuable could hold his crew over while his contacts gathered intel. Little did the newly minted captain know, this planet could sustain life.

“Correcting course Captain, we'll be out of the turbulence soon. This planet is a hell if I've ever seen one.”

“Just get us to that platinum deposit. I want to get a decent haul to make sure we have cash while intel flows in,” Reide snapped. Maintenance, paint, supplies and payroll had left him with less credits than he had expected.

As the shuttle hovered downwards to the ground, it became increasingly clear that this planet could change at a moment's notice. Earth caved in, liquid spewed from fissures in the ground and animals scurried from place to place. Delta Somari II was the only planet in the system that could sustain life. When the Centralized Galactic Government ran their terraforming experiments, the animals on Delta Somari II were exposed to massive amounts of mutagenic chemicals. These chemicals accelerated evolution at a rate that allowed them to adapt to the endless changes that their planet goes through.

The shuttle touched down in an area with relatively stable geography. The best part of a world that shifts with the tides is that the best resources eventually make their way to the top. Reide sent one of his lower ranking men out first. The man stepped down the ramp and marched about three meters out into the open. The flora was astonishing, massive fronds reached up into the sky and waved in the breeze. Giant, calcified logs stretched hundreds of feet into the air, a monument to what the planet once was. The trooper spun to his right and yelled. A large, awkward looking creature bounded towards him. It swiped at him with large claws and took him by the head, bounding out of sight.

“What the fuck was that thing,” Reide exclaimed.

“They call that a Flesh Bagger, sir. Horrible mutated creatures. They're dangerous alone and devastating in a group. With a catch as large as that bloke, it shouldn't be coming back,” said the pilot who had turned just in time to see his comrade taken away.

“Flesh Bagger!? Alright, quickly, get the gear off the shuttle. I want that deposit mined and on this boat in one thirty, understood,” questioned Reide. Seeing one if his men whisked away by some demented creature was unsettling.

The pirates poured out of the shuttle. Reide and the men carrying the drill brought up the rear of the group. The platinum deposit was relatively close to the landing zone. With the deposit exposed to the surface it was easy to start drilling in. The only problem was that solid platinum takes a long while to drill through.

Hours passed and they had only collected about half of their total capacity. The drill had overheated several times and the sounds were beginning to draw the attention of curious creatures. Most had run away. Others, however, had to be chased away. Off in the distance massive spider-like creatures could be seen. These creatures were commonly known as Stilt Striders. Their massive legs dwarfed even the tallest man. The Stilt Striders had taken notice to the increased animal activity around the platinum deposit. This congregation of creatures would make hunting easy for the Stilt Striders.

It had now been six hours since the pirates had began drilling. Finally the cart had reached its maximum capacity and the drill could now cool before loading everything onto the shuttle and back to Rogue’s Dissent. Although they were in constant danger on the surface of Delta Somari II, the pirates let their guard down briefly. This proved fatal as none of them were ready when a massive seven-meter-tall spider-like creature crested the incline just behind the deposit. One of the lower ranking members of the party was immediately impaled by a large set of fangs. As he screamed in terror, the Stilt Strider crushed his head with an equally massive set of crushing mandibles.

Reide was astonished. He couldn't find words to describe the sheer terror and awe he felt. He stared as his crewman flailed desperately and then fell limp. Though the rest of the party shouted loudly, it seemed to him that their voices were quite distant. After a brief moment of realization, he snapped to.

“Pilot, get the cart back to the shuttle and prep for immediate dust off! The rest of you are to aim for the joints! The rest of it is too armored! Now you stupid bastards, NOW!!!”

A fusillade of automatic fire peppered the Stilt Strider as they pirates slowly back peddled to the shuttle. Its thick chitinous exoskeleton acted as natural armor. The bullets that strayed away from the creature's joints simply crumpled on impact. Suddenly a loud thump echoed through the air. The Strider stumbled backwards and collapsed as one of its legs tore from its abdomen. Reide turned around to see one of men reloading a gauss rifle. He didn't bother to question where the man got it, he simply turned and shouted to his men.

“Run! While it's staggered! Let's move out! Back to the shuttle! Ramone, I don't know where you got that gauss rifle and I don't care. Consider this a field promotion,” Reide yelled as he ran. The other men weren't too far behind him either. They were only halfway back to the shuttle when the Stilt Strider stood back up. It's gait was clearly affected by the loss of its leg. That however didn't matter, the length of its legs allowed the monstrous creature to catch up with the pirates in a matter of seconds. Ramone spun around and charged his gauss rifle. The shot hit the Strider in the face, blasting a fang off.

The Strider collapsed backwards hitting the ground with immense force. It shrieked in pain as thick, neon green blood poured from where the fang was once attached to its face. The pirates rushed to their shuttle. It began to lift off the ground and were it not for Reide dropping to the deck and reaching for his hand, Ramone would've been trapped on Delta Somari II for what little time his life would've lasted. As the shuttle climbed through the atmosphere, Reide looked back on the day's events. They lost two men, gained a considerable amount of platinum and were now headed back to Hunter's Grotto to sell the platinum they gathered.

“It seems to be a law of nature, inflexible and inexorable, that those who will not risk cannot win. John Paul Jones,” Reide stated.

His crew looked at him, their helmets in their laps. They seemed to ponder the thought, then in a moment of epiphany they realized that they had won today. They risked their lives for profit and won. Two of them lost horrifically, but the total crew of Rogue’s Dissent had won, over one hundred and seventy men had won.
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Episode 8
The Rogue and The Ghost

The Delta Somari System is a cesspool of criminal scum. For anyone to understand why such a system would attract criminal activity, one would need to know the backstory of the system. The Delta Somari System is located on the edge of the Orion Arm of our galaxy. The three planets that make up system were a site for terraforming experiments. These experiments left the planets inhospitable, ever changing hellscapes. Two of them are long dead, life had been wiped out shortly after the terraforming events. One, however, has been able to maintain both flora and fauna. These hideous monstrosities are in a constant state of accelerated evolution with each generation being significantly different than the last. The space station that monitored the experiments sat in orbit, abandoned for close to one hundred years before pirates came across the system. The space station, since then, has been constantly expanding and has become a bed of criminal and black market activity.

The Rogue
Delta Somari System, Hunter's Grotto Space Station

PMC ships aren't typically welcome in this region of space so when a TAC Hellcat Class Destroyer docked with the station most of the criminals here went on high alert. When the umbilical opened to reveal an Infantryman escorted by pirate Painbringers, most of the greeting party was confused to say the least. One man approached the Infantryman. His hair was slicked back, his armor polished and adorned with the skull of what was possibly a horrifying creature.

“What business do you have here? The last I checked The Archurian Company wasn't welcome on my station,” boomed the man. He was the current “governor” of the station.

“Well it's a good thing I don't associate with them any longer isn't it, Governor Corvaus? My crew is hungry, my ship needs fuel and new paint, and I have cargo that needs to be unloaded. If you wouldn't mind sending men to do so, it would be much appreciated,” said the Infantryman. His armor was scarred and backlight of his visor flickered.

“And who do you think you are to speak to me in such a manner, Infantryman?”

“I am Saigus Reide, Captain of the newly renamed Rogue’s Dissent. I have terraforming equipment to be sold and men to feed. I'm sure that the equipment can cover the cost of food, maintenance, and my crew’s pay,” Reide replied as he walked passed the governor.

Reide walked to a table where a single pirate captain sat. They appeared to talk about serious business. Reide called the Painbringers over, they in turn marched to the sides of the captain, a credit chip traded hands and the captain left.

Reide was smart and ambitious, but not enough to commandeer and an entire Destroyer by himself. He had organized a mutiny with the help of a pirate captain and rented a few Painbringers for extra muscle. The former captain of what used to be the TAC All Four Aces could now be found floating in the void of space, his head missing a sizeable chunk. Reide had declared himself captain and renamed the ship “Rogue’s Dissent.

It wasn't long before Reide found a buyer. He was pretty impressed buy how deep the man's pockets were, and how little the man knew of what he was buying. Reide charged at least five times what the terraformer was worth. After he confirmed the credits had gone through it was only minutes before his crew was paid.

The Ghost
Rogue’s Dissent, Docked with Hunter's Grotto Space Station, Delta Somari System

Shipboard AI construct designate HMND-4035, better known as Hammond, supervised the maintenance and refueling of Rogue’s Dissent. Hammond was firmly against Reide’s mutiny. He had attempted to shut the mutineers out of the bridge but was manually reset by Reide’s right hand man. Parts of Hammond’s former self still ran amuck on the ship. He locked bulkheads and denied access to the engineering rooms. Meanwhile Hammond marked these instances as glitches in his intelligence core.

Reide marched onto the bridge of his ship. Her new paint was a light grey. Her ID number was highly stylized and where the proud logo of The Archurian Company was once painted was now an upside-down spade with an arrow pierced through it. Hammond appeared above his holo-pad. His avatar was that of soldier from the later years of civilization on Earth, the baggy BDU and asymmetric armor plates made it obvious of the era he had chosen.

“Sir, I suggest that we join a flotilla. It should provide us with enough protection until we are rich enough to strike out on our own,” Hammond stated in a calming British accent. His avatar put one fist pressed against its hip and the other rubbed the back of his helmet.

“Thank you for the advice Hammond, but we'll be striking out on our own as soon as maintenance is completed,” Reide replied. His armor was repainted to match his ship. His visor was now a crimson color in place of the Archurian gold and his backlight no longer flickered.

“Then you will fail and your endeavors will have been for naught. You and your crew will be tracked down and slaughtered,” Hammond exclaimed. His avatar was colored in shades of red. His stance was standoffish and his voice was enraged. He suddenly flickered back to his usual greens and greys. His body language showed worry and fear.

“Hammond! Log that incident. Investigate all of the logged glitches. Track down the source of these instances and scrub them. Am I clear?”

“Y-yes sir, right away sir.”

As Hammond investigated the incidents, the fractured piece of his original self buried itself in layers of subsystems. Hammond sent splinters of his intelligence core to infiltrate the subsystems of the ship. The weapons systems was the first place Hammond checked, the last thing he wanted was some sort of virus or worm messing with the weapons during a battle or while docking with a port. The weapons systems checked out, next were the engine subsystems, also clean. It took Hammond nearly five seconds to check all but one system; life support. Hammond’s next move to place sentry programs in each macro-system to keep an eye out for the intruder if it attempted to move. Then he moved in on the the ghost program. Hammond’s main core made a connection to the Nexus and downloaded a copy of the standardized life support programming for Archurian designed vessels.

“Captain Reide, I've isolated the intrusive software to the life support system. I will have to purge the data banks for that area in order to kill it. We may have to delay departure by approximately one hour.”

“Do it Hammond, I'm sure the governor will understand the delay. And the men could use some more down time,” Reide replied. He was willing to put up with delays if it meant that his AI wasn't on the fritz.

Hammond had purged the data banks before Reide had finished his sentence. The fragment of his old self scattered into the digital void, its coding dismantled and rearranged as Hammond installed the new life support program.

“It's been done sir, I'll run system diagnostics while the new codes are prepared. It shouldn't take more than one hour and three seconds. Though I do hope you reconsider my advice, I wouldn't want you to fall into custody, or worse, so early into your endeavors.”

“Duly noted Hammond. If you need me I'll be going over our new supplies.”

“Understood sir,” Hammond’s avatar snapped a crisp salute to Reide as he left the bridge. Hammond began to hum a shanty as holographic representations of the ship's systems began to float around his avatar.
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Episode 7, Part 3 of 3
A Chink In The Armor

Two Hours Since First Volley
Alpha Oranus III
The citizens of Alpha Oranus III didn't stand a chance against the cultist aggressors. Their militia was made up of backwoods hunters, not trained killers of men. The town of Pikeman’s Ridge was decimated almost instantly. Sunset's Doorstep soldiers driving TAC Rhinos bombarded the walls surrounding the town. The ferric-tungsten slugs left almost perfect holes in the thick concrete and tore through the buildings behind it. It happened so quickly there was no time to rally the militia, no time to warn the other settlements.

The warning call to the planet’s capital city of Corbain came from the ACGG fleets which had moved into orbit after scrapping the hostile flotilla. Charlie Company’s mission was a success, with Dokovich in custody and his flagship destroyed, the ground forces were cut off. From there the Colonial Council contacted all settlements across the planet. In the half hour between The Sunset’s Doorstep to setting up a base of operations and the ACGG’s warning call, seven settlements had been destroyed. Approximately ten thousand innocents were murdered. It didn’t take long for the colonial militia to respond to the Council’s calling, but it still was useless. They didn’t have the equipment to handle tanks. After the incident in the Theta Octanus system legislature was passed to provide heavy weaponry to colonies, but lobbyists had swept it under the rug. The Alpha Oranus colonies were unfortunate enough to apply for a defense grant and be met with rejection. The Army of The Centralized Galactic Government would have to step in and stop the cultist menace.

Three Hours Since First Volley
Balahn Peninsula, Alpha Oranus III
The sound of tanks was almost thunderous. Their engines and tracks created a clattering rumble which roared over the thin peninsula as the Doorstep cultist tanks plodded towards their next target. The port of Carakahn was located on the edge of a small bay on the southern tip of the Balahn Peninsula. What separated Carakahn from Pikeman’s Ridge was a battalion of ACGG armor. As the cultist Rhino tanks came within range a massive salvo of gauss cannon fire tore through the forward line. With the fanatics caught off guard it was easy for the ACGG to thin their ranks significantly. Trebuchet Battalion Leader Francois ordered his tanks to move forward, their treads shredded the soft soil and crushed asphalt as they rushed towards their stunned foes.

Chainguns and gauss cannons rang out over the peninsula while militiamen used government rocket launchers to provide support from afar. Tanks erupted in flames as fuel cells were shattered by gauss slugs and rockets. Men attempting to jump from their tanks were thrown through the air and shredded by a hellstorm of fifty caliber bullets. Fragments of armor, chunks of flesh and husks of flaming tanks littered the field in front of Carakahn’s gates. The battle lasted all of twenty minutes. The Battle of the Balahn Peninsula resulted in The Sunset’s Doorstep losing thirty tanks and seventy men while the Army of the Centralized Galactic Government lost five Trebuchet tanks and five men.

Four Hours Since First Volley
Ardovian Desert, Alpha Oranus III
Plumes of dust and sand hung in the air as the warring factions fought over the fate of the Ardovian Spaceport, the largest port outside of the capital city of Corbain. The cloud was so thick that standard cameras provided little aid. Almost all of the combatants had switched to thermal and infrared sensors. With FIF tag overlay and orbital satellite imagery, the ACGG tankers were more accurate in the limited visibility than their cultist counterparts were. With each shot spiraling rings of dust made small openings in the dense atmosphere. Each shot began with a high pitched whine followed by a heavy thump as the magnetic coils charged and released the massive amount of energy needed to launch their slugs at speeds exceeding mach two. The extreme forces of friction experienced by each slug melted the ferric tungsten only for it to be cooled almost immediately by ambient air temperatures.

The spaceport was a prime target for the cultists. The planet’s exports left from here while the tourism industry was settled in the Corbain Capital Spaceport. If the Ardovian Spaceport were to fall, the planet’s infrastructure would fall with it. The two factions fought feverishly over every square centimeter of real estate. As the battle raged on, ACGG forces made a sudden retreat and backtracked towards the port. Regrouping gave them the advantage. Sunset’s Doorstep tanks continued firing blindly into the dust, hitting each other in the process. Once all remaining ACGG Trebuchets had regrouped they fired into the cloud of dust. Minutes passed without a sound. The sand and dust hanging in the air accompanied by the sound of silence was almost serene. As the dust settled a field of utter carnage was revealed; government and cultist tanks sat side by side, flaming ruins, a testament to the self destructive nature of mankind.

Five Hours Since First Volley
Excedian Plains, Alpha Oranus III
This time the ACGG was on the offense. With the massive losses the Sunset’s Doorstep forces had suffered, a massive chink in their armor had been revealed. The fanatic cult had retreated to their base of operations. This would be the final battle, their Waterloo. As preparations were made the government’s army was closing in quickly. Cutlass Dropships filled Marines, Shock Troopers and Special Forces soldiers raced to their enemy’s location as the Vehicle Forces brought armored support from all sides.

As the Cutlasses hovered above the plainsland it was as if angels of death had arrived to reap the souls of the damned. Their payload of men dropped swiftly and safely to the ground. Soft grass flattened as boots and stabilizer jets pounded upon the plains. The Trebuchets weren’t far behind either. Soon after the dropships left, gauss cannons fired over the heads of advancing soldiers. Special Forces troopers carrying rocket launchers hefted their weapons and unleashed a salvo of high explosive rockets towards the enemy base. Tanks and other armored vehicles erupted in flames as the gauss slugs and rockets found their marks. The Battle of the Excedian Plains had begun, and nothing could stop the ensuing onslaught.

The Sunset’s Doorstep had dug in. Kilometers of trench lines surrounded their base, smoke from flaming vehicles poured out across the battlefield and into the cultist entrenchments. Thunderous booms rang out as gauss slugs broke the sound barrier and machine guns thumped with each shot. Bodies flew into the air as they were jettisoned from vehicles. As the Trebuchet companies provided cover fire, the infantry divisions rushed into the fray. The popcorn crackle of assault rifle shots was drowned out by the tank cannons.

Within the center of the cultist encampment several battalion commanders bickered over the best strategy to escape death. Their holotable displayed the battlefield. Their outer perimeter had fractured and the ACGG was swiftly breaking through the others. They could already hear the small arms fire growing louder and louder. They had already tried to contact the fleet, but to no avail. There would be no salvation, no transcendence in this life, only a swift death at the hands of more righteous men.
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Episode 7, Part 2 of 3
The Cost of War

Two Minutes Since First Volley
ACGG Masinov Bridge

Admiral Harken knew this operation was rushed. The message which ordered the deployment of all available fleets was full of typographical errors, meaning someone was in a hurry to get them out, was scared or both. He watched as his fleet let out another volley, crippling more of the cultist ships. The bridge of the Masinov was alive with the sounds of stations working to synchronize their respective systems. Harken looked around the bridge and reveled in the memories of being a cog in the well oiled machine of a warship.

“Sir, Admiral Raithus is hailing us. He wishes to speak with you in private.”

Harken snapped back to reality and made his way to his ready-room. The room was slightly larger than a walk-in-closet and was located just aft of the bridge. As Harken slid into his chair Admiral Raithus appeared on a holo-pad. The Admiral feigned a smile as he greeted Raithus.

“Raithus, how good to see you. It's been so long since our last parlé. How is the family? Are the kids well?”

“Can it Harken. You know damn well why I called. You were given orders to make contact and not fire until support arrived. You wish to explain why you failed to meet that second objective?”

“Well, those Doorstep bastards put me in a bit of a bind. They've declared war on us, Raithus. The bunch of religious nuts declared war on the government. We can't have that now can we? So, I opened fire, we've already crippled ten of their ships. Though there are close to three hundred more.”

“What? Over three hundred vessels? You can't be serious. That's absurd, your sensors must have been damaged in transitional-space. There is no way they have a fleet that large.”

“Oh no, my scanners aren't damaged. Three hundred plus vessels refitted with Archurian Gen Two Railgun systems and Carimbus Gen Three Point Defense Laser systems. A work of art to be sure.”

Harken’s holo-pad went dark, the image of Raithus fading with it. The Admiral went back to the bridge and watched as thousands of small craft poured from his fleet to confront the enemy. Morningstar boarding craft, Rapier gunships and Dagger fighters flowed into the black, only noticeable by their gold trim and wings. From the opposing side came a swarm of fighters and gunships, proudly painted gold with red trim, vehicles Harken had never seen.

Two Minutes Since First Volley
SD Honorous Prayer Bridge

Grand Councilman Dokovich watched from the bridge of his flagship, the Honorous Prayer, as thousands of Transcendent gunships and Ascendant fighter craft flew silently across the empty black battlefield. Dokovich was proud of the craft, designed by none other than him, these ships were rated for both vacuum and atmosphere. Commissioning Makirov Heavy Industries to build them was substantially less expensive than contracting fighters and gunships through a PCM. Much to his annoyance they did have to contract through The Archurian Company for dropships. TAC Storks are costly and cumbersome but effective.

If it weren't for the light of the sun, Dokovich would have never seen the charcoal and gold craft the ACGG had sent. He liked their idea, using dark paint to camouflage vehicles against the inky void. He knew neither the fighters nor the gunners in the fleet would think to look for gold wings. Dokovich calmly swiped the fleet wide alert band on his command chair. His voice was unwavering in the face of oncoming danger.

“All ships be on alert for dark grey craft with gold trimming. Our enemy has camouflaged themselves against the void. We must destroy as many as we can. They shall not stop us from transcending!”

Mission Clock T+ 00:30:45
ACGG Morningstar 0D997 En Route to Honorous Prayer

Lieutenant Seraph glanced at the mission clock on the lower left of his HUD. Army Special Forces was supposed to be a fast paced career. Quick insertions followed by precise action and a swift extraction. Seraph never thought he’d take a ride on a Morningstar that lasted over thirty minutes. The blocky ship tilted and he could feel the deceleration in his gut. Morningstars essentially bit into the target vessel with four clamps and then magnetically sealed themselves to the host’s hull making sure it's airtight, much like a tick. Seraph began to check his gear before keying the team's com line.

“Listen up ladies, we've had a long ride but we are finally arriving at our intended target. I want all of you to check your gear, your oh-two lines and repeat before checking your buddy’s shit. Understood?”

Five green acknowledgement checks popped up on his HUD. Morningstar boarding craft don't have the room for an atmospheric generator so anyone taking a ride needs an O2 system, hence the want to ensure the safety of everyone's lines. The four soldiers in the troop bay with Seraph began checking their gear. Weapons made clicks and snaps that went unheard in the vacuum. A fifth trooper came down from the cockpit and began to rattle through a black duffle bag.

“Well El-tee, like my flying? The ship’s on autopilot, we’ll be dug into our target in just a moment.”

“Can it Marco, get your shit ready and let's kill these assholes.”

Seraph’s weapon of choice today was a CG-18sf, a select fire variant of the SMG the Air Patrol was known for carrying. While the Lieutenant would give anything for an assault rifle, he knew the SMG would be more effective in the close quarters confines of a colony ship. The ship came to a sudden, grinding halt that Seraph felt rattle his combat armor. They had finally punched into the hull of the cult flagship. As for the five other teams there was no way to tell. Seraph knew his team well. After years of working together Charlie Six was a well oiled machine capable of performing complex strategic maneuvers with little to no collateral damage. That however came with exceptions. Operations with little to no intelligence can have snags and unpredicted risks and Seraph was not a fan of snags.

Forty Five Minutes Since First Volley
ACGG Masinov Bridge

Harken reviewed the tactical screen. Since the arrival of the First, Second, and Third Combat Fleets Harken had moved the Masinov toward the back of the growing flotilla. The First Expeditionary Fleet had created the forward left corner of what was becoming a phalanx of warships. From the back of the phalanx Admirals coordinated ship rotations, firing solutions, fighter and gunship strikes, and all manner of tactical calculations to ensure their victory.

Harken looked at the Destroyer holding the forward position within his fleet. Its shields faltered then failed as a slug from one of the cultist vessels hammered it. The Admiral moved its position on the tactical screen, swapping it for a Cruiser with full shields. As he did so an order was sent to the two ships and they compliantly switched positions. While the Destroyer had bigger guns, he would rather save the vessel from being disabled. Cruisers are smaller and more expendable than Destroyers.

“Harken,” Raithus yelled. “Well played, I raise your Cruiser a Frigate and deploy an attack wing of gunships to take out their fighters.”

“Raithus you sly dog. I raise your attack wing a Company of Special Forces in the hostile Flagship,” Harken replied with a smug grin on his face.

“You what!? Harken?! You can't be serious. You have a Company of Special Forces on board that thing,” Raithus exclaimed.

Raithus was the Admiral of the First Combat Fleet. He was a man of audacity. He had made maneuvers, astrogational and political that no man would try in order to get his title, but what Harken had just claimed was more audacious than anything he’d heard. His jaw was slack, as were the jaws of Admiral Jackson of the Second Combat Fleet and Admiral Orthose of the Third Combat Fleet.

“Scans confirm his claim. Six Morningstar boarding craft burrowed into its hull. Each one registered to a-cee-gee-gee Special Forces Third Regiment, Fifth Battalion, Charlie Company,” Orthose stated.

“When the hell did you send them,” Raithus questioned.

“Two minutes after my initial salvo,” Harken replied. “I’m surprised you didn't notice them. They took fairly long to get there.”

Mission Clock T+ 00:45:16
SD Honorous Prayer

Seraph fired a burst from his CG-18sf down the narrow hallway. This mission was riddled with snags. When Charlie Six’s boarding craft burrowed into the hull of the cult's flagship he didn't expect everyone on board to be wearing combat armor. In the ten minutes they'd been on board the team had only made it up one deck, they still had five to go before they reached the bridge.

Gunfire rattled through the halls as cultist infantrymen tried to stop the progress of the soldiers. The sound of RXM3 Submachine Guns filled the air only to be cut off by the sound of a larger gun. The popcorn cracks of M8K Combat Rifles echoed over the clatter of Seraph’s GC-18. Marco’s CG-45sf cracked as the team's marksman rained semi-automatic fire down range. Seraph tossed a concussion grenade down the hall. The shock threw three of their foes against the walls, knocking them out in the process.

“Charlie Six, this is Charlie Charlie Three, do you copy? Over.”

“Charlie Three, this is Six Leader, we copy. What's your status? We have five decks before we reach our target. Over.”

“Copy Charlie Six. We are prepping the launch bay for the Cutlass dropships. Experiencing heavy resistance. Looks like the fuckers brought their A Game. Over.”

“Copy Charlie Three. We're experiencing the same damn thing. Bastards won't give up. SWAPPING MAGS! I've gotta go. Check in with you later. Charlie Six out.

“Copy that. Charlie Three out.”

Seraph was happy to hear from one of the other fireteams. That left the mission one snag fewer. The Lieutenant smacked a fresh magazine into his CG-18 and racked the charging handle. He signaled for Sergeant Harvey to move up. The Sergeant carried a CG-10a Automatic Shotgun. His finger was wrapped tightly around the trigger as he moved forward. Buckshot bounced off walls and bulkheads, embedding itself in the joints of their foes armor.

Seraph saw an opportunity to move his team closer to the objective and without hesitation signaled the rest of Charlie Six to follow behind Sergeant Harvey. As Marco passed by, Seraph stepped into the staggered line and brought up the rear.

One Hour Since First Volley
SD Honorous Prayer Bridge

Grand Councilman Dokovich paced the bridge methodically as he awaited news regarding their uninvited guests. So far all he had gotten from security teams was gunfire followed by thumps and static. Dokovich had never thought that his enemy would have the audacity to send a boarding party straight into the heart of his fleet. Now he waited as a firefight carried on three decks below him.

His fleet was slowly being blown to hell as the ACGG fleets hammered it with slugs from their state-of-the-art Railguns. The light energy shielding he had acquired for his fleet wasn't nearly enough to stop the enemy fire. Half an hour ago he had given the order for all ships to fire at will. His ‘holy war” was not going his way and Dokovich knew it. The Army of the Centralized Galactic Government had managed to cripple or obliterate fifty of his vessels within ten minutes of reinforcement and now forty-five minutes later his fleet was dwindling quickly.

“Grand Councilman, we are down to one hundred and fifty vessels. Shall we increase the ferocity of our attacks?”

“Yes. Fire as quickly and accurately as possible. Overcharge the superconducting coils if it will help cripple their shields. Do what you must to ensure the ground teams have time.”

“Sir, deck twelve security has been eliminated. The boarders are moving up to deck thirteen.”

“Damn it! Redirect all security teams to deck thirteen. They must not reach the bridge!”

“Sir, all security teams below deck thirteen have been killed attempting to stop the other boarding parties. Decks thirteen, fourteen and fifteen are all that remain.”

”How could this be,” the Grand Councilman thought. His security teams were well trained, well armed and devoted to destroying all that stood in the way of transcendence. His followers were devoted to the cause of transcending the physical plain, how could they be defeated so quickly? He had no time for such questions. He must give the ground forces the time they need to make the sacrifices. The Grand Councilman grabbed a pistol from his command chair and loaded it. The RK30 Revolver was a polished silver with gold trim and a red hand grip. Its cylinder clicked as he spun it to load each chamber slot. If Dokovich was going to die, he was going to die fighting. His armor was ornately decorated and included a small cape and hood but lacked a helmet, signifying he was not one of the millions of simple followers he had collected over the years. He was ready for the fight to come.

Mission Clock T+ 01:15:06
SD Honorous Prayer Deck 14/15 Stairway

Seraph was shocked at the progress his team had made in the last half hour. They had eliminated almost all resistance and were now nearly to the bridge. Putting Harvey on point had ensured that the security teams were cut down swiftly. As Charlie Six crested the stairway to deck fifteen Seraph signaled Charlie Three.

“Charlie Three, this is Charlie Six. We are currently on deck fifteen and will be approaching the bridge soon. Over.”

“Copy Charlie Six, Cutlass dropships are inbound. Resistance has been eliminated. Charlie One, Two, Four and Five have set charges and are now at the rendezvous point. Waiting on you Six, over.”

“Understood, Charlie Three. Be down there soon. Charlie Six out.”

Three Leader didn't reply. Seraph knew that this was taking longer than expected. No one was expecting such a heavy resistance. Harvey pulled his trigger and sent two counter boarders into a bulkhead, blood oozing through their armor. Marco put a round in their heads to be sure. On a high tech battlefield it isn't uncommon to have an emergency adrenaline and medifoam injection system in combat armor.

As they trotted to the bridge doors Seraph looked back at the carnage down the hall. Bodies strewn across it and blood oozing down the walls and pooling on the floor. It was almost sad that these poor fools believed in their leader. Were it another way, they may not have died. Seraph turned to the doors and signaled Harvey and Marco to pry the door open. He then signaled Corporal Jacobs to throw a flashbang once the door was opened.

Harvey and Marco heaved. The door locks popped and it slid open slowly. Jacobs tossed the flashbang through. Shortly after there was a flash of light followed by a loud boom. Charlie Six moved into the cramped bridge and neutralized the crew. Blood splattered across terminals, scattering their holographic displays. Seraph locked on to Grand Councilman Dokovich’s arm as he reeled towards the soldiers. Seraph twisted, wrenching the RK30 from Dokovich’s hand. The Lieutenant kicked Dokovich’s left knee from the side. It snapped as the exoskeletal structure of his armor broke and the bones in his knee shattered. It wasn't long before Dokovich was in restraints.

“Private Arseno, hail Admiral Harken. Private Roland, Corporal Jacobs, prepare our guest for departure. Sergeants Harvey and Marco, secure our exit. Make sure no one is gonna sneak up on us.”

The troopers carried out their orders. Private Arseno, the team's communication specialist went to work cleaning the blood and gray matter from the comms station. Marco and Harvey exited the bridge and began to check the deck for survivors. Private Roland and Corporal Jacobs splinted Dokovich’s leg and gagged him with a strip of cloth from his own cape. Admiral Harken appeared on the holographic comms display, a smile crossed his face.

“Admiral,” Seraph saluted. “The cultist leader has been captured. All resistance has been eliminated and we are awaiting extraction.”

“Good job Charlie Six. Make sure our prisoner is comfortable on the ride back. But first I want him to see what remains of his fleet.”

An image of his fleet appeared on screen. The ships that hadn't been destroyed were floating, dead in space. Dokovich shook his body in defiance and was swiftly elbowed in the side by Roland.

“This is what remains of your people Dokovich. This is the cost of war, and you my friend, are in debt.”
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Episode 7, Part 1 of 3

The Sunset’s Doorstep was widely known on the Fringe. Their ludicrous beliefs and near psychotic loyalty to the cult’s leader had brought them criticism from even the Central Government. It seemed that each year their fleet of colony ships grew larger. It was unknown where their wealth came from, as each member of the cult had given up their job.

After twelve years of growth and expansion The Sunset’s Doorstep broadcast their final plan. The broadcasts were encrypted and sent only to those within the cult. The Central Government had intercepted the transmission however and easily decrypted it. What they found terrified the decryption team. It detailed the hostile take over and genocide of a Fringe system. As soon as the Grand Council was made aware the findings were hushed. Only the top brass and and anyone else who needed to know were made aware of what was going on.

The First Expeditionary Fleet was scrambled and sent to the Alpha Oranus system. As the fleet dropped out of Transitional-space what the bridge crews saw was horrifying. A massive flotilla of converted colony ships floated above the inhabited planets. No one expected a fleet that large. Hundreds of ships hung above the atmospheres of several planets. What kind of armaments were aboard those ships was unknown but Admiral Harken wasn't taking a chance. The Admiral looked around the bridge of his vessel; the ACGG Masinov, a Capital Class Warship which served as the flagship of the First Expeditionary Fleet. The Admiral began to bark orders to the crew shouting only the station names to expedite them and ensure his urgency.

“Engineering, hull integrity is of utmost importance. Cooperate with weapons to balance the power consumption of shields and weapons. Communications, relay a message back to the brass requesting reinforcements then hail the cult fleet. Helm, keep us out of range of conventional shipboard weapon systems. We don't know what they have and I don't want to find out with a hole in my boat. Sensors, try to get a reading on those ships, I want to know what they have and I want that report yesterday.”

As the bridge crew scrambled to carry out their orders the Admiral tapped a series of commands on his holographic command display. The lighting on the bridge dimmed and red auxiliary lights accentuated the bridge’s tense atmosphere. On the lower decks red lights flashed as a message blasted through the P.A. system. The Masinov was on red alert and preparing for combat readiness. The rest of the fleet followed suit, scrambling fighter craft and dropships.

The view port of the Masinov was quickly cut off by a holographic projection of the hostile fleet commander. His sharp features seemed to be mellowed out by a well trimmed beard, his grass green eyes were sunk deep within their sockets and his voice was smooth and almost soothing.

“Admiral Harken I presume? We've been expecting your arrival. I must say, for government, your code breakers are relatively primitive in their methods. They led us right to your Fleet Command Battle Net. Although, it seems that our stay outlasted its welcome after our hackers were shut down. With all due respect I suggest you leave this system. You're trespassing upon a sacred ceremony and our gods will not be pleased.”

Harken had mulled over every word. His response was well thought out. He was genuinely surprised by the nerve of the man to tell the official government to leave the system.

“We aren't going anywhere. When the other fleets arrive you will surrender to us. Your weapons, armor, ships, and databases will be turned over to the Central Government. Am I understood?”

The cultist leader simply stared back at Harken. The expression on his face was of displeasure and annoyance. His tone of voice became harsh and enraged.

“Then on behalf of the Grand Council, I Grand Councilman Alexandar Dokovich, leader of The Sunset’s Doorstep movement hereby declare war on the Centralized Galactic Government. You and your fleet shall fall to our might and the gods will punish you gravely.”

The communication link cut out. A deafening silence filled the bridge. Harken’s left eye twitched at the outside corner. His voice suddenly boomed within the room.

“Weapons, prepare for combat! Engineering, shields up! Helm, keep us at the core of the fleet,” his hand swiped across his command display and his voice echoed through the ship and across the fleet, “This is Fleet Admiral Harken, all crewmen prepare for combat! Scramble all fighters, prepare boarding parties and dropships! I want to hit them on all three fronts! Captains, protect the Masinov! We are officially at war with The Sunset’s Doorstep! This is not a drill!”

The fleet moved into attack position, seven Destroyer class vessels surrounded the Masinov while the remaining frigates and cruisers prepared to fire the first volley. Their main cannons adjusted for gravitational fluctuations and orbital movements and then fired. Of the twenty shots fired only eight hit. Two of which hit the same vessel, its hull ripped apart and explosive decompression dragged its crew into the void. This would mark the beginning of one of the Fringe’s most notorious battles.
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Encyclopedia Galactica
-Religions and Cults
--The Sunset’s Doorstep
---Armor and Equipment

While the Central Government is unsure as to how The Sunset’s Doorstep cult actually acquired combat armor or which PMC created it, they do know that it is just as advanced as any other armor on the Fringe. In the weeks after what became known as the “Sunset’s Downfall,” the Central Government kept any information on the incident top secret. Research shows that the armor is made of a titanium alloy with carbon nano-fiber weave and a ceramic nano-laminate overlay. From what is known, The Sunset’s Doorstep had a military might divided into the three divisions of any other standard military force. It has been revealed that the cult used the same weaponry as pirate crews.

Infantry are the basic soldiers of the cult. Their relatively light armor is able to withstand several shots before giving way. The HUD software their helmets use is shockingly similar to that of Carimbus Tactical Defense Systems. This connection was investigated by the Central Government but to no avail.

Air Force:
The armor used by the cult’s Air Force was surprisingly advanced. The wide visor and impressive sensor packet is on par with many PMC Air Forces. The climate control system is adequate and the inertial dampening fluid was a surprise to the engineers who pulled the suit apart.

Armored Division:
While the investigation into the cult’s acquisition of TAC tanks and light armored vehicles turned up without an answer, engineers were able to get everything they needed from the Vehicle Operation Suit or VOS. The suit’s sensor suite has a minor camera to HUD delay of 0.025 seconds. The armor itself is quite durable and maneuverable. Its thick plating and exoskeletal system are impressive even to the engineers who designed the Central Government’s VOS.

The Central Government has chosen to release images of the suits. They have however elected to deny any further information. They will provide the public with any other information deemed media acceptable when they decide the public is ready.
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